Childhood cancer takes the lives of more children in the U.S. than any other disease. There are many types of childhood cancers, not just leukemia; there are solid tumors found in the brain, bones and many other parts of the body. While the incidence of childhood cancers increased from 1975 to 2004, fortunately, the survival rates have increased as well.
Each year in the U.S., about 13,400 children between the ages of birth and 19 years of age are diagnosed with cancer. About one in 300 boys and one in 333 girls will develop cancer before their 20th birthday. In 1998, about 2,500 children died of cancer.
What percentage of these children have doctors that put vitamin D to work during the treatment of various cancers?
While better surgery and chemotherapy are the reason survival rates have increased, the test tube and animal evidence for an anti-cancer effect of vitamin D are so profound; these survivors deserve all the help they can get. Recently, researchers from Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York measured vitamin D levels in 484 children who had survived cancer.
Dr. Abha Choudhary and colleagues wrote:
- “Mean 25-OH D level was 25.2 ng/ml” in the 484 children.
- “Childhood cancer survivors are at greater risk for subsequent malignancies, low bone mineral density, cardiovascular risk factors, and cardiovascular disease, all of which might be affected by their 25-OH D status.”
- “Moreover, the risk for these adverse outcomes increases as survivors age. Thus, the health implications of a suboptimal level of 25-OH D may be of greater consequence in this population, particularly as they reach adulthood.”
- “Targeted interventions to improve 25-OH D status in cancer survivors appear warranted.”
As I said before, these children need all the help they can get. While we desperately need research to actually see if vitamin D can aid in traditional treatments for children, for the time being, I echo Dr Choudhary’s sentiments: targeted interventions to improve vitamin D status appear warranted.